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Book Review

Philip M. Wagner's Grapes Into Wine--a Guide to Winemaking in America

"Grapes Into Wine set the standard all other books on grape winemaking have had to compete with"

Wagner, Philip M. Grapes Into Wine--a Guide to Winemaking in America. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, 1976 passim.

(Reviewed for Amazon.com by Jack Keller, The Winemaking Home Page)

Philip M. Wagner's "American Wines and Wine-Making" became a bible for small producers and winemakers in America. First printed in 1933, it was revised several times and then completely rewritten over 40 years later under the current title. Although dated, it is still one of the more valuable resources for the small commercial or home winemaker intent on making excellent wine from grapes and grape concentrates.

Wagner discusses the grape and all its inherent qualities in clear, concise language. His treatment if both old French-American and new American hybrids is still a good historical and practical guide for grape selection. His appendix on wine grape varieties is a handy compendium for the single plant to small vineyard grower, while his appendix on "Wine Analysis Simplified" is invaluable to anyone wishing to make award winning vintages.

The "meat" of the book discusses the fundamentals of winemaking as an art. This is amply illustrated with chapters on making red, white, rosť, sparkling, and other fermentations. He discusses clarification, filtering, testing, blending, and bottling with the experience of someone who is at ease with their finer points. He devotes a chapter to the then growing interest in making wines from concentrates and another on what can go wrong. While not a tutorial or handbook, his treatment is more a dissertation that any but a master winemaker would find instructive and beneficial.

It is his chapter on wine tasting and drinking that sets his work apart, for these are the culminative activities for which all wine is ultimately made. His dissection of the anatomy and physiology of taste is a primer any who aims to make really good wine. It won't make you a wine critic of Hugh Johnson's stature, but it will make you more conscious of what happens when wine is taken into your mouth. And that, after all, is what it is all about.

This is a solid addition to any home winemaker's library. For historical insight alone, it is worth the price if you can locate a copy for sale. But for practical insights, it was always a bargain at its original asking price.

Order Philip M. Wagner's Grapes Into Wine--a Guide to Winemaking in America from AMAZON.COM now!

Last update was November 3rd, 2000.

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